About ten years ago, I was visiting a person at the hospital. It was an important surgery, so I came and prayed, and then waited in the waiting room with their adult sister who had come into town. Also present was a member of the congregational care team, on call that week to care for people.
The three of us talked for a while, and after about an hour the conversation lulled, and eyes were drifting over to the TV where The Price Is Right was on. So I said my goodbyes and headed towards the elevator, glad that my church member was sticking around.
As I stood in the elevator, doors closing, I distinctly heard my parishioner say to the woman, “He’s painfully shy”, and then the doors closed.
That was a long 3 flights down.
You ever overhear somebody talking about you like that? It’s disconcerting. For one thing, I had on my “attentive pastor” persona that day, alert and responsive. Had I really acted that shy? It wasn’t said meanly, which somehow made it worse. They were making excuses for me!
The end result was a few days of paranoia on my part. What are they saying about me? And not just at the church, either. When my family talks on the phone, are they talking about how annoying I am?
What about my bosses–my District Superintendent and my Bishop. What are they saying about me? Are they questioning my effectiveness? Are they talking about me? Or maybe worse…maybe they never think to talk about me at all?
Ever feel like this? Like you aren’t your own accurate gauge of who you are and how effective you are in your interactions? Well…you’re not alone.
Remember this passage?
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” –Mark 8:27
No, I don’t think Jesus was overcome with a sudden bout of low confidence or paranoia. And he certainly wouldn’t advocate us being bullied by other people’s words. But yes, I think he cared what people thought of him. He wanted to know how effective he was being. He wanted to see if his message was getting across.
And so he asked his friends. People he trusted, who might have some information he hadn’t been privy to. And sure enough, they had a sense of people’s perceptions which were…close, but not right on the money. They were viewing him from a less than focused lens.
You remember how this goes, right? It was the people closest to him, namely Peter, who had the clearest vision when it came to who Jesus was. That was probably Peter’s proudest moment, when he correctly identified Jesus as “The Messiah, the Son of God who is coming into the world.”
(Of course, 2 minutes later Jesus was berating him, so you win some, you lose some.)
Here’s my point. Of course people have things to say about you. You’re a human being with complicated relationships and jobs and friendships, etc. I’m betting most of the things people say are good, but there could be some criticisms or harsh observations in there too. We have to be careful what feedback is helpful and what should be shaken off.
If you’re worried about what folks are saying, remember that we’re all growing through this thing called life together. Along the way, be glad for the friends who love you for who you are…
and be patient with all the others who are still learning.
Have a great week,